Monday, August 31, 2015

Alma 31:17 -- On False Prayers and Choosing to be Chosen

"But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God."
Alma 31:17

This is part of a Zoramite prayer.  The Zoramites, as Alma writes, "did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances" (verse 11), which is why Alma's group had gone to preach to them.  This part of the twisted prayer struck me especially because of the idea that God elects us arbitrarily either to be exalted to heaven or to fall to hell, no matter what we do.  This idea--of being chosen and holy because we were born to it, while others were born to slavery and ruin--has been a pretty popular one throughout history.  Being born with the blood of the Gods, or having royal blood, or one group of people being born to serve another... whatever it is.  It's a tempting thought.  We all want to think that we are special, important... that we have an advantage.  We also like the idea that we don't have to work as hard as others or that things will come to us easily.  I imagine the Zoramite religion became popular for just those reasons... because we like to hear that we are better than other people and that we are just automatically going to be saved without having to do anything about it.  It's a pleasing lie to hear that we could just sit back and be guaranteed heaven without having to work for it.
Unfortunately, as with all other lies, it isn't as pleasing when you are on the other side of it... the people who aren't chosen, or the ones chosen to be enslaved or persecuted or cast down to hell.  So, let's clear this up a little bit.  The scriptures do talk about callings, elections, being chosen, heaven, hell, and all the rest of the vocabulary words used here.  But this prayer is twisted... imitating something pure and turning it into darkness, especially with the denial of Christ and his atonement, which is exactly what gives us the power to *be* chosen.  God's chosen and his elect are *always* the ones willing to live the gospel.  The ones willing to listen, and love, and serve.  The ones that put him first, and love their neighbors ... any neighbors ... as themselves.  No matter where we were born, or what skin color, desires, race, or blood, we are chosen, and welcome in God's kingdom.  And no matter how royal our line or how holy our birth, if we walk away from God, we reject that.
None of this means that we aren't special or that God isn't interested in us.  We are, and he is.  It just means that he doesn't choose arbitrarily, and that *we* make a choice as to whether to be chosen or not.  When I was deciding whether to go on a mission I read this verse: "Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work" (D&C 4:3).  To me, that means, God wants *everyone* ... and he welcomes us all.  But if we don't want it, then we need to get our lives together and in the right place before we make a commitment to do something that we will hate.
Today, let's not be like the Zoramites, thinking we get everything for nothing, and other people aren't as cool as we are.  Let's remember that we all get to choose whether we want to be chosen.  God will choose any of us, if we want it.  If we are willing to serve him and do the work that it takes to build the kingdom and help others.  We won't always get to choose the specific place to serve, but God has a place for each of us, as we choose to volunteer.  He will never turn anyone away.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Alma 7:7 -- On the Importance of Christ

"For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people."
Alma 7:7

This is a good thing to remember.  Just as Christ's life and his visit was the most important thing in the collective future for Alma and his people, so it is the most important thing in our collective past. Christ's atonement affects each of us on a deep, personal level, making repentance and self-improvement possible on a scale and to such an extent that we need never feel lost or alone or rejected or hopeless, if we turn to him.  And his gospel and his resurrection and new life give us a way to live happier, fuller lives both now and in eternity.
As we go throughout our days and deal with the complexities and intrigues of our lives, let's remember the importance of Christ, and how much he has done for us.  Let's stop today and thank God for the gift of his son, and let's take advantage of the opportunities that he has granted us to repent and change and become more than we are.  Let's make sure we're striving to live in a way that allows us to return to God's presence.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Joshua 8:34-35 -- On Reading the Scriptures

"And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them."
Joshua 8:34-35

In order to do God's will, we have to know it.  I like this story of Joshua reading everything to the people.  A giant group scripture study. :)  This seems like a good example for what we should be doing, not only as individuals, but as families and as larger groups.  Reading and talking about and supporting each other in living the commandments of God.  Today, let's read, and let's listen, and let's do the things that God asks, and be thankful for the scriptures and the reminder they are to us in our lives.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Alma 42:19-22 -- On Mercy and Trusting by Default

"Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.
And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?
But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God."
Alma 42:19-22

Lots of good stuff in this chapter.  I liked this part because it seems to be a really good, basic explanation of mercy, justice, and repentance, and the reason that we need all three.
I think that we all wonder sometimes why God has certain rules.  Some seem obvious perhaps, but depending on our weaknesses or our experiences in life, others might seem confusing.  And sometimes we start getting the attitude that we are only willing to follow the ones that we understand.  In many cases though, if we wait until then, we've already crossed a line and caused ourselves consequences that we never wanted.  And we learn, too late, why the rule was there in the first place.  God doesn't make rules to control us.  He makes rules because he knows more than us and he is trying to protect us.  It's a concept that is pretty easy to understand if we imagine ourselves reading a book or watching a television show where we know the characters really well.  We watch them make mistakes, and we see them headed for huge problems.  How many of us have never wanted to scream "wait, stop!" to a character, or when we see them being blackmailed or pressured, wanted to encourage them to just tell the truth, knowing that it would make things better?  We aren't a television show to God in the sense of him enjoying our tragedy... he doesn't at all.  But in the sense of him knowing our characters, and what is coming, and wanting to tell us to stop or wait or tell the truth... it is like that.  He knows us, and warns us, partially through his rules.
All of us sometimes have a hard time wrapping our heads around trusting God and obeying even when we don't understand why, but if we instead of not obeying until we understand, let's obey him unless we learn that we should do otherwise.  God is cool enough, even when we are just first getting to know him, that he deserves our default trust.  And if we give it to him, he can protect us from SO much heartache and pain.  Not all.  We still have to learn.  But a lot... all the parts that we cause ourselves, which is plenty, and maybe most.  Today, let's trust God by default, and let's repent and allow mercy to claim us. :)  God is never going to cease to be God, so let's get on the right side of his law.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

D&C 137:7-10 -- On Works and Desires and Happy Endings

"Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven."
Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-10

I was reading this today and I realized that it is one of my favorite parts of the gospel.  God is saying here that accidents of birth and death and opportunity can't stop us from having the opportunity to fulfill our potential.  That's amazing.  Life is so unfair sometimes.  No way around it.  We don't all have the same opportunities or even equal access to the necessities of life.  We don't even all get to grow up, or have good parents, or get taught good things.  And that doesn't mean that society owes us a living or that we don't have personal responsibility for the choices that we make... and it *definitely* doesn't mean that we can't overcome all of that and be amazing and great and strong and even heroic.  We can, and pretty often do.  I think that if we knew them better, we would realize that most people are heroes in some way.
Inequities and differences and impediments can sometimes stop us in life from doing what we wanted to do.  I'm never going to get to be an Amazon warrior, or the princess and then Queen of my own dominion... among the many, many other things that I won't have the opportunity to do that I may have dreamed of when I was young.  But none of those limitations or impediments, whether they are mostly frivolous like mine or intensely tragic like not being able to grow up at all, are made up for by God.  Mortal life might be flawed, but eternal life will never be.  God will reward us according to our works, but *also* according to our desires.
Today, let's take the opportunities that we have and make the most of them.  Let's be everything that we can be here on this earth and live and love and become and bless and serve.  And let's not worry about what might have been, because God has all of that covered, and all of it will be okay.  Happy endings on their way.  If we do what we can with what we have, God will take care of the rest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Luke 2:25-30 -- On Simeon Level Spiritual Technology

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation"
Luke 2:25-30

This is a great story, and from it we learn that sometimes God lets us know things about our lives ahead of time, and also that when we are in tune, God can reveal important things about other people, and help us love them and see their potential without even knowing them.  If all of us got cool revelation like that, the whole world would be cooler, right?  So, how do we become more like Simeon?  Step one... we need to listen to the spirit.  We have to have a relationship with God where we have an always-on connection.  More often we are dealing, at least spiritually, with 8 baud modems and old computers with no hard drives.  We need to upgrade our spiritual technology and start praying and listening and checking that connection all the time.  Step two, we need to be attending the temple.  Simeon encounters Christ because he was in the temple, and that is where the spirit led him when it was time to fulfill the prophecy.  The house of God is where we can get a lot of important revelation.
Now, of course those two steps aren't everything, and some of them have prerequisites.  We can't go to the temple if we haven't learned to go to church, for instance.  And we can't have an always on connection with God if we aren't praying or studying our scriptures.  If we aren't ready to get a fiber connection, that's okay.  Let's just make sure the connection is actually *there* ... we can worry about speed later.  Today, wherever our spiritual technology level, let's make sure that we have a connection with God.  And as we learn to use that connection, let's make it stronger and stronger, and eventually upgrade it to Simeon level, and beyond. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

3 Nephi 11:28-30 -- On Angry Mud Puddles and Finding Solutions

"And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away."
3 Nephi 11:28-30

These verses are part of what Christ talked about when he appeared to the people in America.  In this chapter they feel the prints of the nails in his hands, and they know that he is the promised Messiah, and then he calls Nephi and others up and gives them power to baptize.  That part is interesting because these people already had the gospel, but he is asking them to be baptized again, similar to what John the Baptist did in preparation for Christ on another continent.  I think it was because Christ was asking them to make new commitments and covenants with him, beyond what the Law of Moses asked of them,  I like the idea of renewing baptism anyway... being washed clean just the once seems like it would be way too easy to fall into a mud puddle and then just give up.  But with this, and with the sacrament that we take each week, we have the opportunity to renew the promises that we make at baptism, and God renews his promises too, including forgiving us for our sins.  So, we get to continually be washed clean, and get better and better at avoiding mud puddles, and other things that make us filthy.
In these verses Jesus talks about disputations and contention and anger.  And I think that these are interesting things that we might want to study up on a little, because I think this is one of those mud puddles that we fall into way too often.  Talking about ideas is a great thing, which I think that God loves just as much as I do.  It's fascinating to explore different possibilities and ideas and to expand our minds a little bit.  But too often we instead take our ideas and try to bash other people over the head with them, figuring that if they don't agree with us voluntarily, maybe we can push the ideas in there by force.  Thankfully, this does not work.
Christ tells us that the one that is stirring us up to anger about these things is not him, and that *his* doctrine is that we stop doing that.  And I get that it isn't easy.  There are a lot of emotionally charged topics that we deal with every day, especially ain the political arena.  We all have opinions and thoughts about what we see around us, and often we feel quite strongly about these topics.  Today though, let's try to let go of the spirit of contention.  Let's walk around the angry mud puddle.  Let's only worry about whether our choices are in accordance with what God wants, rather than fighting with each other about it.  If we can do it without anger, we can still discuss ideas and solutions to local and world problems.  And without the anger, perhaps we can find a way to compromise and find solutions together, even when we don't all agree.  There is still a lot of room for productive thought and negotiation without contradicting God's will.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

D&C 38:30 -- On Preparation Precluding Panic

"I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."
Doctrine and Covenants 38:30

I especially like the last phrase of this verse: "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  The whole verse, and whole section, is God trying to prepare a people for the future, and that continues every day, and in our lives individually.  God is working to prepare us for what comes next, as we work our way towards the happy ending.  And, no matter how scary the monster is in the next chapter, if we are prepared for it, we don't need to fear it.  In a world where we hear frightening things every day, and where we are already desensitized to the fear in others, this is an awesome promise.
Today, let's pray and talk to God about how we can prepare ourselves for the next chapter.  Let's treasure up wisdom and learn everything we can from other people, the world around us, and our individual experiences.  Let's read our scriptures and learn the word of the Lord.  Let's write down what we learn to enlarge our memories... and then, when the inevitable monster comes in this next chapter, there won't be any panic.  There will just be the calm doing of whatever needs to be done.  Whether it is fighting, running, building a monster zoo, or talking the monster into being a friend.  Doesn't really matter because whatever is appropriate in this instance, with God, we can be ready for it.  Let's deal with the monster and move on to the next chapter, where we will learn even more... and don't worry.  Preparation works on everything.  Sea monsters, paper cuts, alien invasions.  God has us covered.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

3 Nephi 23:11-14 -- On Writing it Down and Enlarging our Memories

"And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.
And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded.
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them."
3 Nephi 23:11-14

When Christ appeared to the Nephites, he taught them a lot of stuff, and this part was interesting to me, because he specifically says, I commanded my servant Samuel the Lamanite to prophesy this, and it happened, right?  And they say yes... and that is where he says, as above, "How be it that ye have not written this thing?":  in other words, why didn't you write it down?
And I think that is something that applies to our lives as well.  As it says in John 14:26, the comforter will bring all things to our remembrance, but also in Alma 37:8 it says that the things that are written have "enlarged the memory of this people," Writing it down means that it can enlarge not only our memories, but the memories of others.  That's the way that we get scripture... people writing down history and spiritual things that happened to them.  And it helps us to read it and understand God's word and his love from many different perspectives.
Today, let's think over our days and our weeks about the things that have happened to us and the things that the Lord has done.  And let's write it down, so that we have it to remember, and other people do too, in the future.  We forget so easily.  Let's make sure we make a record so that we don't have to rely on our inconsistent mortal memories.  Really, who cares if we aren't celebrities and people aren't knocking down our doors to read our words?  If our experience or testimony touches even one other person, then it was worth the effort.  And I think that one other person includes our future selves.  So, let's do it.  Let's answer Christ's question by writing it down, and enlarging our memories.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Matthew 7:12 -- One Rule to Rule Them All

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
Matthew 7:12

God knows that our lives are often complicated, and that it is hard to figure things out sometimes, and so he tries to help us out with some commandments that really just sum everything up.  If we would keep this one well, we would be fulfulling all of the laws and the prophecies of God, because this one is that good. :)  Wow... just one rule and I am good?  Yes.  Just one. :)  To keep this one though, we have to have God's help and we really have to learn to love other people.  Let's think about what we want most in life.  Love, acceptance, money, power?  Whatever it is, are we giving to others what we want from them?  To gain love, we have to learn to love.  To gain acceptance, we have to be accepting of others.  To gain money, we have to learn generosity (at least in the Lord's rules of money... I wouldn't count on the world's rules working for very long).  In order to gain power, we have to be willing to be subservient, and listen to others, so we can learn to lead well.
Today, let's work on this one thing, and see how it fits together with so many other things.  Let's try to see things from other people's perspectives, and help them all we can.

Friday, August 21, 2015

2 Samuel 13:11-12 -- On Not Crowdsourcing Evil

"And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.
And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly."
2 Samuel 13:11-12

This is part of an interaction between Amnon and his half-sister Tamar.  You know, there are a lot of things that we want to do in life, and not  all of them are good.  Case in point, Amnon's overwhelming desire to sleep with Tamar.  Amnon didn't do anything about it at first, but then he told someone, and that someone gave him some ideas about how to get what he wanted.  A similar thing happened with Cain and Abel.  Satan was around, urging Cain to react badly and let his jealousy rule him.  Similar things happen throughout the scriptures... and throughout our lives.
I work online, and today I had to deal with a lot of questions about this same topic that Amnon was so obsessed with.  One person typed in "sex with sister and she cry" ... which made me want to cry as well.  Other people were trying to figure out who else had done it, some were asking about the consequences of being caught, some were asking if it was okay, or whether they should if a sibling asked them.  One asked how to tell his mom that he had done it.  And you know, the internet is a great place where we can find like-minded individuals.  I can pop on and find Doctor Who fans, people who live near me who like the same hobbies, or other people who want to learn more about the scriptures.  The internet is amazing in that way, and who doesn't want to know they aren't alone, or that other people feel the same?
The danger is when we start finding people who reinforce our harmful desires.  We can start thinking... oh, it must not be wrong if so many people feel the same.  We can get ideas that, when we act on them, make a passing thought into a deadly sin.  Depending on what we encounter and what choices we make, we can take a minor dislike of something we don't understand into hatred that leads to violence, or we can turn it around into love through learning more and trying to understand.  And the same goes with this and so many other sins.  We can turn something minor in our lives into our all-consuming desire, or decide that isn't who we want to be.  It can become an obsession, or it can become a challenge that we faced and overcame, depending on who we are listening to and the choices that we make.
Today, let's avoid becoming Amnon.  When we have inappropriate desires, let's not find someone else who feels the same.  Instead, let's tell God.  Let's tell our parents or our spouse.  If it is something serious, let's talk to the bishop, or a counselor, or both.  Let's never turn to people who will reinforce our evil and help it to grow.  God can change our hearts and flush out the evil if we want it.  Let's allow God to help us to let go of those bad parts of ourselves and to learn to be better and better and purer and shinier. :)

Genesis 24:57-58 -- On Choosing to Go

"And they said, We will call the damsel, and inquire at her mouth.
And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man?  And she said, I will go."
Genesis 24:57-58

When Abraham was getting old, he sent his most trusted servant back to his former country to find a daughter for his son.  This is towards the end of that story.  As the servant arrives in Abraham's old home town, he comes to a well and he makes a deal with God.  If he asks a girl for a drink and she not only gives him a drink, but also waters all of his camels, then that is the one chosen by the Lord.  And so it happens, with the first girl he asks.  And he asks her who she is, and finds that she is the descendant of Abraham's brother.  He goes to her house and tells her father and brother about his task, and the deal which he made with the Lord, and they agree that it is from God, and that she should go.  Before he leaves though, her mother and brother asks if she can stay longer, and the servant says no... I need to return.  And that is when they call Rebekah herself to see what she says.
I think this kind of thing happens to all of us.  Sometimes our future seems out of our control, and things are moving too fast. One day we are just fetching water and the next day we are getting married to a stranger.  Even when we know it is from God, change is hard, and we don't always have a say in it.  Jobs change, health changes, other people make choices, and sometimes we're standing and watching it all happen to us and it can be a little overwhelming.  I'm impressed with the bravery and faith of Rebekah here, when she was finally asked, in agreeing to venture out into an unknown life less than a day after she met the man that she was going to travel with, and never having met the person she was going to marry.  She believed that God had a plan for her, and she is willing to act on it with very little transition time.
Today, when it is our turn to speak in the middle of the chaos, and when we get to make even small choices about our lives, let's be as faithful and as brave as Rebekah was.  Let's trust in God's plan for us, and let's embrace it and choose it for ourselves.  Let's not rebel for the sake of rebellion, or delay God's plan because we need to get used to it.  Let's jump in and take that step into the unknown, trusting that God will help us as we choose to go.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

D&C 131:6 -- On Doing Our Homework

"It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance."
Doctrine and Covenants 131:6

Sometimes we just don't want to know some things.  I think often, at least with gospel things, it is so we won't be responsible for them.  And since God doesn't hold us accountable for things that we don't know, then we think that we're okay avoiding the knowledge.  But, oh.  This scripture means that isn't really true.  In order to be saved, we have to learn.  We can go through the motions of doing something, but if we don't understand it and we're not doing it purposefully, then we still have a ways to go before we master it.  Remember, God's purpose isn't to make us into obedient slaves, but into fully competent peers.  We might not get even close to that in this life, but that's the ultimate goal.  So, we need to understand what we are doing, and why.  We need to want to do it, and be choosing it freely in order to get the benefit of the lesson.  I am not saying we need to get there instantaneously.  Sometimes we start out obeying a little bit reluctantly, or we just go through the motions and the heart isn't involved.  I think, to start, that can be okay... as long as we are learning and working on it, and eventually get to that wholeness.
Today, let's not be satisfied with relying on someone else's testimony.  Let's not settle for taking the sacrament without understanding it.  Let's not just believe that the scriptures are true without reading them.  Let's do our homework.  Let's dive in, and find out.  If there is something we don't understand, let's study it.  Let's think about the things that we are doing, and let's take the time to learn about and understand them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ether 2:23-25 -- On Making Crazy Plans

"And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.
And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?"
Ether 2:23-25

This are some really interesting verses, because the Lord is asking the brother of Jared to figure something out that was basically impossible.  Jared wanted light in the barges, and God says, okay, what would you like me to do?  You can't have windows, and fire won't work... so, what is your plan?  And I think that most of us as that point might look down, shuffle our feet, and say, okay... we have to travel in the dark.  Darn it.  But God gives the brother of Jared a hint, and asks him what he, God, can prepare for him.  Hmm... God can prepare something that will work?  Hmm... and he comes up with a plan, and he asks God about it, and God does it.  A light source that we don't even have now with our further technological achievements.  And I wonder, if we trusted God more, and had more faith, how different our lives would be.  How many dead ends would turn into gateways, and how many impossibilities would we find out aren't so impossible after all?
Today, let's try to see past the walls we've built in our minds where we dismiss a lot of our creative thoughts as crazy or stupid.  Let's sit down and plan with God a way to get from here to our promised land WITH light. :)  And let's come up with something... and even if it sounds crazy, let's take it to God.  As we have faith and work with him, he'll help us see the flaws, help us see further possibilities, and help us to reach the goals that we set with him... without having to sit in darkness during the journey.  He loves us so much, and he *wants* to work with us to help us reach new heights and be more amazing.  Let's go for it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

D&C 9:7-8 -- On Prayer, Faith, and Effort

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."
Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8

These verses were given within the specific context of translating, but I think they are applicable to us in a more general sense as well.  I think that we paralyze ourselves sometimes in life, waiting for God to tell us what to do, when *he* is waiting for us to take some initiative.  If we thought that God was trying to make us slaves, we we would probably feel all resentful and rebellious, but sometimes we act like slaves anyway, imagining that we need instruction before we can do anything or make any decisions.  But we aren't slaves.  We're children, and God wants us to learn to stand up and make good decisions.  He'll help us along the way, definitely, by confirming a decision or helping us feel that something is a bad choice, but almost never will he tell us every step along the way ahead of time.  This isn't because he doesn't love us, it is because he *does* love us, and wants us to learn and grow and be able to stand on our own.  Just like our earthly parents love it when we get up off the couch and look for a job, our Heavenly Father loves it when we start to understand that he is teaching us to be self-reliant, not just God-reliant.
I like the story of the brother of Jared and the barges in Ether 2.  The brother of Jared had made the barges according to God's specifications, but there were a couple of problems.  Air and light... they wouldn't be able to breathe, and they wouldn't be able to see.  So the brother of Jared asked God about these two things.  And the Lord solved the first one for him, and went back to him and asked him how he wanted him to solve the last one, and ruled out a couple of possibilities.  God could have solved all the problems at the time he told the brother of Jared how to make the barges, but he wanted him to learn by doing, and realize the issues involved as he went along, and in the end he wanted him to learn to innovate and come up with a plan. Today, when we need answers, let's pray about them for sure, but then let's also dive in and try to find them ourselves.  The combination of prayer, faith, and effort will get us infinitely farther than prayer alone... and maybe, like the brother of Jared, we'll learn something cool. :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mormon 7:1 -- On Ancient Advice

"And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:"
Mormon 7:1

In this chapter Mormon is speaking through time to people many hundreds of years in the future.  He knows they will exist because he trusts God, and he trusts God to give them his message.  On our side, it is someone speaking to us from the distant past, offering advice.  Sometimes we dismiss advice from the past without even considering it, because we think that we're living in a new world, and that we'll never have the same problems that our ancestors or even our parents did.  We think that *we* will be better than that.  We dismiss the advice of our grandparents or other older people for similar reasons.  We often think that they are outdated, and they have nothing to offer us.  This is an age of new, and we don't need to think about obsolete technology or ideas.
The problem with this thinking is that it is largely wrong.  True, perhaps we take to the internet faster than our forebears, but technology doesn't change the core of the gospel.  It doesn't change the fact that we are all still going to have interpersonal challenges, that we are all going to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and it certainly doesn't change God, who knows the end from the beginning, no matter which year you start from.  Youthful exuberance and hope for the future is awesome, but sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that experience does matter... that people that are older than we are probably have experienced things that we haven't, and have good advice to share with us.  Especially prophets. :)  And our parents, who raised us, and know us pretty well, despite what we might think.  Our teachers are worthy of respect for taking the time to share their experiences with us, and help us improve.
Today, let's thoughtfully consider the advice of others, whether young or old.  Let's remember that everyone we meet may have something to teach us... even reading their words hundreds of years later.  It doesn't mean that we have to take everyone's advice or that everyone older than we are gets to automatically boss us around, but as we are learning to follow the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), let's remember that we would like people to listen to us and take our ideas seriously.  Let's offer that same respect to others.  Especially prophets. :)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ephesians 5:8 -- On Being Children of Light

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:"
Ephesians 5:8

When we look at our lives sometimes we see darkness.  We think about poor choices that we have made and hurtful things that we have done, and even though we've changed or are trying to change, we can't erase the past.  It is still there, reminding us of our failures and the darkness that we have been.  But God reminds us here that with him and our commitment to him, we are light, and we don't have to let our past "sometimes darkness" define us.  Just as the sun drives away shadow, God drives away the darkness from us, and we have the opportunity to be light, and goodness, righteousness, and truth as spoken of in the next verse.
Today, let's not let our sometimes darkness haunt us.  Let's leave all of the shadows in the past and let the eternal light of God shine through us.  Let's walk as the children of light... the children of God.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

1 John 3:1-3 -- On Being Children of God

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
1 John 3:1-3

The whole idea of being children of God is an amazing thought.  As John says, we don't know all the details of what we will be, but that single idea, being like God, means that our potential is staggering. We sometimes get wrapped up in our limitations, and in what we don't have.  We think, if only I could do this or if only I had that... and we reinforce our weaknesses by not even trying things that we think we are bad at.  We fear failure so much that we often aren't willing to explore and discover new possibilities.
I think that the hope that John is talking about here is the real power that we can bring to our lives if we really believe and apply in our lives the idea that we are the children of God.  If we have that hope, we know we can overcome limitations.  We know that we can deal with obstacles and impediments, and still succeed and thrive.  We know that society and finances and lack of opportunity can't hold us back.  We are God's children, and we can accomplish anything that God asks of us.  And he asks us to be out there doing good.  To be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" (D&C 58:27).  We have the power as God's children to be anything and do anything, and if God is with us, no one can stand in our way.  Today, let's take this hope, and let it purify our hearts... let it clean out the doubt and the fear and the despairing thoughts that we can't accomplish anything and that we can't make a difference.  We can.  Let's persist, and find a way... and grow into our potential.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 -- On Despair and Deliverance

"For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;"
2 Corinthians 1:8-10

Paul is talking about a specific event here, but I think similar things happen to all of us.  I know I have felt "pressed out of measure, above strength" before.  And despair happens.  We have times when we lose hope... sometimes in life itself, sometimes in a relationship or a job or a health situation or something else that matters to us a lot.  I think Paul's message here is strong and clear.  Even when we know that we can't overcome a situation ourselves, and that we are doomed: to death or whatever other consequence is looming over us, God is still in charge.  Death can't beat someone who can raise the dead.  Illness and suffering can't conquer someone who can heal with a touch.  And when we get to that point, where we can't cope anymore, we can still turn to God, who can cope with anything.  Let's let go of the despair because it isn't only ourselves that we have to trust in.  With God we are never alone.  Today, let's trust God when we can't trust ourselves, and know that he has, does, and will deliver us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Moses 4:30 -- On the Importance of Words

"For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled."
Moses 4:30

Can you imagine what life would be like if everything we said actually happened?  I think we have a long, long way to go and a lot to learn before we become like God in this respect.  Maybe someplace to start would be keeping our word.  Our society doesn't place very much value in verbal assurances, but as individuals, we can.  Let's take a little more time to think about the things that we say, and the promises we make.  Let's take the commitments that we make seriously, and let's be very careful of what we say to and about other people.  I'm not saying that God doesn't have a sense of humor.  He most certainly does, but he doesn't find humor in the mockery of others or in self-denigration.  Words are serious business, and we should remember that what we send out matters.  Let's not send out messages about ourselves or others that are negative or harmful.  Let's send out good and positive messages, and let's only make commitments that we are determined to keep.  As we do so, let's look to God's example of righteousness and trustworthiness, and ask him to help us as we strive to improve the messages that we send, and live up to our words.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

1 John 4:8-11 -- On Loving and Helping Each Other

"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
1 John 4:8-11

God knew that we couldn't make it on Earth without help, and rather than letting us fail because we weren't up to the task, he sent Christ to suffer and die for us, so that we would have the ability to repent, to change, and to choose better rather than failing once and failing forever.  God could have allowed the unworthy to all fail, but instead he gave us all a chance to become worthy, and to learn to live up to our potential.  His plan gives us unlimited chances to start again, to change, and is designed to help us succeed.  He blesses us for every effort we make to be good, no matter how small.  He designed the world so that we could love each other and build each other up... so we could be saved together rather than as individuals.  Today, let's learn to love and help each other to repent and change and succeed.  Let's not tear each other down or step on each other to reach the top.  God's plan is better than that, and as his children we all have the potential to be better than that.  Let's love each other as God loves us.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Psalms 37:3-6 -- On Learning to Trust

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday."
Psalms 37:3-6

These are some pretty amazing promises... being fed, getting the desires of our hearts, even, it seems, getting our way. :)  Very few things stand in the way of having it all... mostly trust.  I wonder sometimes why it is so hard to trust God.  Part of it could be our society.  It is full of imperfect people, and our experiences often erode our faith and trust in humanity.  Also, we often don't trust ourselves, so it can be pretty hard to trust anyone when we don't know how to have that kind of faith in anyone at all.  Today, though, let's try.  God is worthy of our trust, as no human, including ourselves, can be.  He does, and always will, keep his promises.  We are his children.  He will never abandon or forsake us.  He always, always, wants to be in touch with us.  Let's take his hand today, and allow him to lead us to the answers we seek.  Let's allow him to feed us with his spirit, and bless us as only he can.  Let's learn of him, love him, commit to him, and delight in the fact that the God of the Universe wants to hang out with us.  That he loves us, and wants to help us every moment.  Let's let go of our doubts and fears and anxieties, and realize that we really can trust someone with everything. As we learn to trust him, God will be able to help us more and more, and someday, because we offered him our trust, these verses will be fulfilled in our individual lives.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Proverbs 25:27-28 -- On Honey and Walls

"It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."
Proverbs 25:27-28

Earlier in this chapter (verse 16) it mentions honey as well... saying that if we find some honey, we shouldn't overdo it, or we'll get sick.  These verses kind of expand on that theme.  Seeking for glory and prominence is like overdoing it on sweets.  We'll get sick from it.  As suggested earlier in the chapter as well (verse 7), better to be humble and have others express how cool we are than to brag and have others put us in our place.
The idea of having no rule over our own spirits is an interesting one too.  Usually we think about this as brute-force willpower.  For example, chocolate cake (or something we like better) is placed in front of us, and we are drooling and we really want it, but we firmly say no and push it away.  This idea is very popular, but I think it also gets us into a lot of trouble because we're not solving the availability or the desire, and so it just keeps being in front of us until we give in.  God's conception is a little different, depending on what the temptation is.  Let's take his example of honey.  Usually honey isn't inherently evil.  God is okay with us having some, but we have to restrict ourselves to an amount that is good for us... that won't make us sick.  Brute force willpower says never, but still wants it.  God says moderation.  We can still have some, but we have to control ourselves and not have too much.  This idea of moderation is hard for us, because we live in a drama-filled society.  The images and messages we hear urge us to indulge in all the honey we want, or else never have honey, ever, because it is bad and probably causes cancer.  When God tells us we can have some, or tells us we need to only partake in the right circumstances, then we get confused because we're used to all-or-nothing thinking.  We reinforce these all or nothing messages to ourselves every day.  We say things like "I can't resist" and "I'm not good at that."  We have to be for or against, and if we're thinking about it or can see both sides, then we're sometimes looked down on as willing to compromise.
Now, for sure, not everything can be symbolically represented by honey.  There are some things that God is 100% no on.  For instance smoking.  He doesn't want us to do it (D&C 89:8) ever, not even a little.  But even then, sometimes we think too dramatically.  Because someone else smokes, should we shun them or castigate them?  No, clearly.  God wants us to love everyone.  So how do we rule our spirits, and deal with all of these decisions that God has given us, when the lines aren't always clear?

  1. First, when there is a line, let's stay far, far away from it.  Playing chicken with sin is definitely not ruling our spirits.  If something tempts us, we should stay away from it as we learn not to be tempted.  We don't need to learn brute-force willpower with everything.  We don't have to look it in the face and say no.  Learning not to desire something takes a long time, and practice most definitely does not make perfect when it comes to sin.  Let's do like Joseph did with Potiphar's wife instead, and run.
  2. Second, let's stop sending ourselves negative messages like we can't resist or we're bad at something.  Those are choices.  Instead of acting and talking like we aren't in charge, let's start remembering that we are.  Maybe we do have a problem resisting certain things, and maybe we are currently bad at whatever it is... but instead of saying it like it is an incurable medical condition, and is going to be true forever, let's make sure it won't be.  Let's start reading up, and praying our guts out, and find a way to change.
  3. Third, let's remember that part of baptism and conversion and the gospel is the opportunity to start fresh and new.  We are symbolically reborn when we are baptized, and that newness is part of the sacrament each week when we renew those promises with God.  We don't have to be tied down to who we used to be.  God offers us conversion, and we experience that mighty change of heart that it talks about in Alma 5.  Let's keep learning and changing and becoming more and more converted every day.
  4. Fourth, let's remember to love.  This does not negate the first item.  If hanging out with certain people puts us in the middle of temptation, then let's get *out* of that situation.  Maybe in that case we will have to show our love with a little bit more physical distance.  God doesn't say we have to hang out with everyone, or do what they do... just that we have to love them.  For some people we can show our love in person over a game of Scrabble.  Others, we need to show our love by using the like button on Facebook.  But in neither case should we hate or mock others.  Some people are going through trials that we don't understand, and maybe we can't understand why certain things are tempting to anyone,.. but even people who put their honey on disgusting chicken-flavored crackers are still sons and daughters of God, and deserving of our respect, and love.
  5. Fifth, let's set some appropriate boundaries for ourselves.  If we have a honey problem, then maybe we need to measure out how much we can have on our peanut butter and honey sandwich. :)  We need to stay within the bounds the Lord has set, so let's set some of our own.  If we can't have honey right now, let's not get those cute little honey bears out of the cupboard.  Let's not look at the coupons for honey in the newspaper.  Let's do something else... like, let me see.  Oh.  Read the scriptures. :)  Pray.  Read a book.  Play Scrabble.  ... I could keep going, but we get the idea.  It isn't like there aren't 9 billion things to do in the world besides think about honey.
  6. Sixth, let's remember Lot's wife (Luke 17:32).  When God asks us to walk away, let's not keep wanting it and turning around and trying to go back.  As mentioned in previous steps, we need to learn not to want it, and accept that mighty change of heart that God offers us... but we have to keep feeling it, every day.  We can't walk away and then keep regretting it, or else what was the good of walking away in the first place?  Lot's wife left the city to avoid destruction, but then she destroyed herself by turning back.  Let's not do the same thing.  If it is lust for power or glory that we are giving up, or excess food or extramarital sex, or smoking or drinking, or homosexuality, or gambling, or porn, or drugs, or pride, or *anything* at all.  Whatever the "honey" is that matters to us individually, let's not destroy ourselves by believing that we can change our actions but not our thoughts, our emotions... all of us.  In following God we commit to become new creatures, to take on *his* name.  Let's not fall back into being the old people that we don't want to be anymore.
Learning to rule our spirits gives us some defense against temptation, like rebuilding the walls of the city. :)  I'm not saying that my steps are foolproof, complete, or even in order.  They probably overlap a lot too, but they are just a place to start.  If we're failing at what we're trying right now, let's try something new.  And let's always, always, include God.  He knows what we're going through, and he knows how to help better than anyone else.  Let's talk to him, read his word and trust his gospel.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Luke 16:31 -- On Drama and Testimony

"And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Luke 16:31

This is the end of a story that starts in verse 19.  In the story, a rich man and a beggar both die, and the rich man goes to hell and the poor man to heaven.  The rich man, in Hell, looks up and sees the beggar being cared for by Abraham, and asks Abraham if he would please send him to ease his suffering.  Abraham tells him that there is no way for them to get to him.  So then he asks him to please send someone to talk to his brothers that are still alive, so that they don't end up in the same place.  Abraham tells him that they already have prophets and scripture, and the rich man basically says they won't listen to prophecy, but if someone would appear from the grave, *then* they would believe.  That's where this verse comes in.
I think often we go looking for signs just trying to justify our reluctance to be obedient.  We run up against something we don't like and we say, okay God, prove that this is real, and THEN I will do it. Occasionally, when there is some real sincerity or doubt, God says, okay... I'll call your bluff.  And so he gives us a sign.  Usually small, but individual... unmistakable.  And maybe at first it is clear, and we know what it was, but then doubt and that reluctance creep in and we explain it away again.  We convince ourselves it was a coincidence or a trick of the mind... or even ask God to show us again, as proof of the proof, and *then* we will believe, and it becomes this never ending cycle where we want God to prove each and every aspect of the gospel to us, rather than learning some faith.  The signs never actually satisfy us, and they really can't, because that isn't the way to gain a testimony.  It's like other parts of life where sometimes we seek drama because we think that everything needs to be supercharged with extra histrionic meaning so we can feel "alive."  But the Lord is not in the earthquake (1 Kings 19:11-12) or in the drama.  He's in the scriptures, he's in our prayers.  He's speaking to us now, quietly, waiting for us to calm down and listen.
There's actually a fairly famous poem by John Donne (Holy Sonnet 14) that expresses what we often want.  This is the first stanza:
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
It's a beautiful poem, and it is definitely a tempting and compelling idea to just have the Lord reach down and make us into what he wants.  And I'm not saying God never does dramatic.  I think he just saves it for when drama is actually needed.  Sometimes if it is really, really important, God sends us a very clear, persistent message.  And there are instances in the scriptures where someone was struck down by God and then arose with a changed heart (Saul, Alma the Younger).  Sometimes we want something immediate and soul-changing like that instead of the little changes that we make daily.  But let's remember a couple of things here first.  One is that there are also other examples in the scriptures where people saw angels or were similarly stricken by the Lord (Laman and Lemuel, Korihor), and who did *not* change.  Secondly, let's remember how hard even some of these little changes are.  I don't think being stricken down by the Lord is a picnic.  And lastly, let's remember that *forcing* us is exactly the opposite of God's plan.  God can change our hearts, but we have to ask for it, and be willing, and repentant.  It isn't the drama that changes us.  It is the daily decisions that we make, choosing who we want to be, and listening to God.
Today, let's go of our need for drama.  Let's not look for angels or spirits or other signs to convince us that God is there.  Let's read our scriptures and learn of him, and then let's get on our knees and just ask him.  If we ask sincerely, he'll help us to know (Moroni 10:4).

Friday, August 7, 2015

Jonah 4:4 -- On Letting Go of Anger

"Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?"
Jonah 4:4

We don't often talk about Jonah post-whale, but he went through a lot in order to do what God asked him to do, and things didn't turn out the way that he wanted or expected them to.  He was upset.  The whole whale thing, and then God didn't destroy the city as he had prophesied.  When you're a prophet, you are probably used to God backing you up.  You say that the city will be destroyed in 40 days, and God does it.  ...But in this case, Ninevah believed Jonah's prophecy, and they repented... which is amazing in itself.  We often don't listen to God's warnings.  But in any case, God spared them, and when God didn't destroy them, Jonah just sat down and gave up.  Wanted to die.  And God's lesson to him at that point is an interesting one.  Jonah is sitting there in the dirt and the sun is beating down on his head, and God causes a plant to spring up quickly and offer him some shade.  And Jonah is glad of the shade.  And then God kills the plant, and Jonah is angry about losing the plant.  And God compares his compassion for the plant to God's compassion for Ninevah.  Jonah, even in his despair, cared about something, even though it was there and gone the next day... and God cared about Ninevah, and didn't just send Jonah to destroy it, but so he could save it.
And I guess that whole story as the background for this one verse.  We get angry in life.  It happens.  But in talking to God about it, he is always going to ask us this question.  And the thing we have to learn is, the answer is always no.  As with Ninevah, so with everything.  God always has a plan, and he is always, always trying to save us.  He doesn't take our suffering lightly, and he doesn't ask us to do things with no reason.  Sometimes the reason is the one we expected, but sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes things work out the way that we want them to, and sometimes they don't... but the point that Jonah didn't get at first, and that we don't often get, is that God isn't backing us up.  We are backing him up.  Things aren't going according to our plans?  Frustrating, yes, but not a problem eternally, because they are *always* going according to God's plans.  We are all going to suffer some personal setbacks and tragedies as we learn.  We're not always going to think that life is working out or that life is even worth living.  Like Jonah, we might give up, but God never does.
We don't know the ending of the story of Jonah.  It ends with the lesson.  But I would like to believe that Jonah stood up, brushed off the dust, had dinner, and got back to living.  Because God has a plan and a purpose for all of us, and even when we're disappointed and angry, his plan continues, and we still all have parts to play.  Today, let's trust that God knows what he is doing.  Let's let go of the anger, brush off the dust, have dinner, and get back to living.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

John 4:28-29 -- On Leaving the Waterpot

"The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?"
John 4:28-29

In this chapter, Jesus encounters the woman at the well.  She is a Samaritan, and because of the societal issues at the time, she is very surprised that he will even talk to her.  As they converse, she realizes that he is a prophet, and then further realizes that he is the Messiah, which he confirms.  These verses struck me because I think they illustrate the value that she placed on that knowledge.  She had come to the well for water, but in her haste to tell others about Christ, she didn't even take the time to do that task.  She leaves her waterpot behind because she wants people to know him and see him, and that was important above all else.
Her message is just as important now.  Christ lives.  Do we realize how huge that information is, even today, and how much it matters to all of our lives?  Let's follow the example of this woman and not take it lightly.  Let's leave our waterpots and other daily tasks behind and take the time, now, to do something about it.  Let's talk to him, and encourage other people to talk to him.  Let's show the Lord that he comes first in our lives.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Luke 1:77-79 -- On the Sunrise

"To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Luke 1:77-79

This is Zacharias after his son John the Baptist is born, talking about John's mission to go before Christ and prepare the way, and also mentioning Christ's mission.  I love the imagery here of Christ as the dayspring from on high.  It is cool to think of Christ as the sunrise.  It is an image full of hope.  And Christ does do that for us.  He brings light to our darkness, a hope for a new day, and helps us find our way out of our guilt and anxiety to discover the path to peace. :)
Today, let's give thanks for the sunrise, both literally and figuratively, and find joy in the renewed light.  Let's trust God, and hold on to that hope, and the constant promise of a new day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Luke 9:10-11 -- On Following Christ

"And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing."
Luke 9:10-11

Whenever I read about Christ's mortal ministry, I wonder what it would have been like to have been there.  To sit at his feet and to learn from him... to be able to ask him questions there, in person.  I can totally understand why the people would follow him wherever he went, and I adore that he took time for them and healed them even when he was trying to have a private meeting with the apostles.
I wonder if we can translate that desire to see Christ and to learn from him in person into a desire to pray.  I know that it is hard to get our minds to admit that it is a similar thing sometimes, especially when we often fall into formulaic prayers, rattle off a list, and get it over with.  Prayer shouldn't be like that, right?  Prayer *is* like being there in person.  It's not asynchronous communication like email is.  We don't send a prayer to God's inbox and wait for him to get it.  It is synchronous communication.  When we start praying, God is there on the other end of the line, listening to us.  If we are sincere and in tune, we can feel his presence, and sometimes answers will even come as we are there, communicating.
It's can be hard sometimes, I think, recognizing God's presence and hearing his answers.  We don't always know what the Spirit feels like, or how it works in our lives right away.  It takes time and practice learning to listen, and we might prefer the opportunity that the people had during his ministry.  If we put in the effort though, our lives can be just as full of his presence, and perhaps even more full.  For us, we don't have to leave him to eat or sleep or earn a living.  The benefit of prayer is that it is *always* there, whatever we are doing, and as Alma 37:37 teaches us, God will even watch over us in our sleep. :)
Today, let's be willing to follow Christ wherever he goes, and take him with us wherever *we* go.  Let's ensure that we are learning to have him always with us, and putting him first as an essential part of our lives.

Monday, August 3, 2015

D&C 93:36-38 -- On Light and Truth and Forsaking Evil

"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-38

I love the idea that we are made from light and truth.  In Abraham 3:22, we learn that we are intelligences, and in D&C 93:29 we learn that we were in the beginning with God.  There are tons of other scriptures about this too, but the basic idea is that we are *made* from goodness, and here it tells us that the light and truth we are made from forsake the evil one... that we start out good, and innocent.
Sometimes I think we need to step back and remember that part... that there is an eternal core inside us that is good, that shines and that shies away from any kind of falsehood or darkness.  If we actually would listen to that part of ourselves, we would realize that we need to heal where we have hurt and we need to be better and kinder and more loving, because that is who we are.  Who we *all* are.  And no matter what we've done or how we've poisoned ourselves in this world, as long as we are alive some part of us is still crying out for that goodness, yearning for God.  Learning from God helps us to understand that part of ourselves and get in tune with it again.  Sometimes we try to handle that part of ourselves by suppression... pretending it isn't there, or trying to desensitize ourselves to spirituality because we feel guilt or regret.  And that often works for long periods of time.  Throw enough blankets on top of your conscience, and it takes a lot to hear anything out of it.  But that sort of thing damages us because it makes us less sensitive overall, and deadens us to so many good things.
We can have peace with that part of ourselves, but it takes some work, and sometimes some sacrifice.  It's kind of like going to to the doctor.  We're sick, and we don't want to be sick any more.  We want to feel better, but sometimes the remedy isn't fun.  Sometimes it could be a shot that scares us and hurts, and in more serious cases it requires surgery to remove part of ourselves that is causing us pain.  God's gospel is the answer, and the cure for all spiritual ills, but we have to let go sometimes of habits, or relationships, or parts of ourselves that are causing us pain.  God is the doctor, and luckily for us he is never wrong.  We'll never be misdiagnosed... but as with all doctors, if we ignore his advice, he can't cure us.
Today, let's remember that we have goodness within us.  Let's tap into it, no matter how long it has been.  Let's talk to God about making things right, and restoring our souls.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Matthew 12:36-37 -- On Our Words and God's Words

"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Matthew 12:36-37

I was reading this today and it reminded me of a scripture in Isaiah, which basically says that we are supposed to do *God's* stuff on the Sabbath and not our own: "not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words."  And I was thinking that would be a cool trick if we could speak God's words instead of our own, because that would probably help us come out on the justified side rather than the condemned side.  And at first the thought was frivolous, but then I realized, wow.  Maybe that is the whole point, right?  The whole gospel is teaching us to learn what God would say or do in any given moment.
God asks us to bless them that curse us and do good to them that hate us (Luke 6:27-28), in essence to learn to say what God would say.  He tells Nephi "all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." ... Nephi's words were justified, because he had grown to understand God and to seek the same things.
I know that some people will think "brainwashing," about all of this, so let's address that.  I think that what we call brainwashing, using a word with a negative connotation, is the same thing as what we call education, using a word with a positive connotation.  What makes the difference in how we look at it are the methods used and the principles taught.  If the principles are false and the methods are coercive and deceiving, then we see it as bad.  If the principles are good, and the methods are plain and we are free to accept or not, then we usually see it as good.  God has never been a brainwasher, even though I realize that some humans have been, and tried to justify it in his name.  God is an educator.  And as we realize that what he is teaching us is true, we learn to accept it and agree with it.  But even then, he isn't turning us into stepford wives or obedient zombies.  He is teaching us to grow up into our potential, as his children... never removing our free agency, but instead showing us how important it is in learning to be spiritual adults.
Christ did a lot of quoting from scripture during his mortal ministry, which I think is interesting.  He, of all people, could easily speak his own words without fear of condemnation, but he often chose to quote from the scriptures instead.  I think that is a good example, and perhaps a place to start for us as we seek to speak God's words.  When we're pondering what to say or do, going to the scriptures for inspiration would probably help us solve more problems in our lives, but it would help us be less idle in the way that we speak to and about others.  Today, let's take the time to think about the words that we are speaking, and make sure they are ones that will help justify us, and not condemn us.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Isaiah 40:31 -- On Waiting and Soaring

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31

We were talking about waiting upon the Lord, and how waiting for him is a good thing, and this scripture made me think of that, because it talks about even more benefits of waiting on the Lord. :)  A few verses before this it reminds us that God never gets tired, and his understanding is perfect.  I think that is basically reminding us that God has this.  He gets it, and he has a plan.  We don't always get it, and to us we feel like the world is spinning out of control, or things are falling apart, or something went wrong.  And it makes sense for us to feel that.  We're scared.  We can't see what happens next, and we don't have control over it, and that is scary.  But the cool thing is that God *always* ... always, always... has a plan.  And things never spin out of control for him.  Everything will work out like it should, and the happy ending (happy eternity) WILL come, if we wait upon the Lord to make it happen.  If we trust him, we don't have to be scared.  If we have faith in him, we can find ways to make a difference, to be part of his plan, and to make things better.  If we're impatient and we try to control things, we'll be anxious and scared all the time.  But if we wait, and we put God first, then all those things that we can't control will fall into place, in God's plan.
Today, let's trust God.  He will help us not be paralyzed by our fear and our lack of understanding.  Let's talk things out with him, and tell him what's up and what we're worried about.  If we have faith in him, we will be renewed, and energized, and maybe even get to fly.  Probably that part is symbolic, but hey... you never know. :)  As we trust God, our spirits will soar.

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